Posts tagged summer
End of the Year Activities

It's that time of the year again!  The birds are singing, the sun is out, and the school year is winding down.  I've found myself becoming a little bit tear-ier than usual when I think about saying goodbye to this years' batch of kids.  At times, they were a really tough group, but I've loved the adventures we have been able to have together.

There are so many ways that you can celebrate the end of the year in an elementary classroom.  I thought I'd share a few of my favourite ways to mark the end of a successful year together.

1. Now and Then Bulletin Board

On the first day of school, I always take a picture of my kiddos holding a sign that marks their first day in a new grade.  For me, it's important that this happens on the actual first day of school.  (Not the first week, etc.)  I love the nervous/shy/apprehensive smiles I get when I take their photos on Day 1.  Then, towards the end of the year (usually 2-3 weeks from the end), we take another photo.  This time I ask them to scream out "I am done grade three!"  I love seeing the difference between their beginning and end of the year photos.  They grow so much in third grade.  

2. Birthday Party for Everyone

The theme for our year end class party this year is "Birthday Party for Everyone".

I have to admit, I am not the best at celebrating birthdays in class.  I'm great at holidays, book studies, literary events, science projects... but birthdays...notsomuch.  This year, we are having an in-class birthday party for all of my students on a day that is no one's birthday.  Each student is in charge of something: planning games, making invitations, setting up colouring stations, organizing food... even washing the dishes afterward!   

A fun way to celebrate with their friends, and make sure each child feels valued during the school year. 

3. Slideshow (Class Movie)

I love ending the year off with a class movie.  I am an iPhone and camera addict (Nikon girl!)  so I am constantly snapping pics and quick movies of my kiddos. This is my chance to snip them all together into a short (ok... 10 minutes... not that short) movie to watch.  

When I first started teaching I always waited until the last day of school to show them the movie.  Last year I stopped doing that.  Why?  Because they love the movie.  They love it so much that they could watch it every day for a week.  So now I usually show it to them 2-3 days before the end of the year. It gives them a chance to see it a few times before they have to say "goodbye" to each other for the summer.  Then, if they want to talk about it, process it, or suddenly *remember* someone that they need to play with on the playground... they can! 

4. Beach Field Trip

I know that this one isn't possible for everyone.  I feel so fortunate to live in British Columbia, and only 30-45 minutes away from more than a dozen world class beaches.

Each June my grade three class heads to the beach with our grade one buddies, their siblings, and all of our families.  We celebrate the end of a successful year family-style with a beach BBQ, sandcastle building contest, and little toes in the sand!

5. 'About My Year' Project

End of Year Flipbooks by Poet Prints Teaching (K-5)

 

I always try to finish out the year with a project that helps students to reflect on their time in Third Grade.  It's a great way to help students to remember all of the fun you had, and think back on how much they have learned and grown!  Last year we wrote letters to future Third Grade students.  This year, I created a flipbook template that let us think about the best parts of the year! 

6. Award Ceremony

In the last week of school I always hold my annual 'Grade Three Award Ceremony'.  We set up the classroom like a mini-auditorium and each student is given an individualized award certificate.  I invite parents to come watch and try to make this a special part of the end of our year.  This is such a chance to honour the unique parts of each student in my classroom.  I love how students light up when they hear how they are being honoured.  Teachers Pay Teachers has many pre-made award certificates.  I use this pack from 'Teaching with a Mountain View' because it has so many different options and is a great time-saver.  (I do still have to come up with a few awards on my own - but she has an editable template as well).  

7. Maintain Routines

This one may sound odd... but stay with me.  Sometimes the end of the year in an elementary classroom can be so much fun that it gets a little chaotic.  Field trips, parties, school-wide events, parent visits and evening concerts can mean that their last few weeks in a certain grade look almost nothing like the rest of the year!

Last year, I remember one of my bright-eyed little third graders coming up to me and asking "Mrs. P, will I ever get to do read-to-self with you ever again?"  She was heartbroken at the thought that regular grade three was over.  

In the hustle and bustle of the "fun" of the end of the year, I've learned that sometimes the best gift you can give to your students is the gift of keeping things as normal as possible.  They like it.  They like you, their teacher.  They will miss so many parts of the grade they are in, so why not let them hold on for just a few more days? 

How do you and your class celebrate the end of a year of learning?  Any traditions you have carried forward from year to year?  Anything you are hoping to try out next year?

BEATING THE SUMMER SLUMP (and a freebie!)

April and May are some of my favourite months to be a teacher. By this point, I know each and every one of my students, and they know me.  We’ve found our perfect rhythm and can work together as a fairly well-oiled machine.

I know which students need that ‘extra push’ to do their best, and which ones need to be gently coached with a hug and a smile of encouragement. I know how to correct behaviors in a way that encourages the best from my little ones, and doesn’t crush their spirits.

Each student needs such different things, and it often takes months to figure it all out.

Look at my little hard-working students  Oh term three, how I love you!

So, for me, Term Three is the most blissful of the three.

They know what I expect in my classroom, and I (for the most part) know what they need to be successful. I still get small butterflies in my stomach when I look across the hall to the Grade Two class that will eventually be ‘mine’ next year.

I wonder how we will get to this point.

Academically, I find September to be one of the most challenging months as a teacher.

Is anyone else with me on that one?

All of those lovely, high-achieving students that walked out of the school in May or June, walk back in like tiny little zombies who have forgotten almost everything. (Or so it seems!)

Oh, the summer slump.

Teachers, you know what I mean.

It’s that phenomenon that happens over the summer where the 8+ weeks of summer vacation seem to erase our students’ brains… or at least the part that remembers how to ‘do’ school.

So we re-teach. Things that were a snap in June, are suddenly brand-new skills.

  • How to put your name on a piece of paper
  • Where to line up
  • How to use capital letters and punctuation
  • Working for more than 3 or 4 minutes at a time
  • How to open a thermos! (So, so many thermoses… side note: why has no one invented a thermos that will open itself?!)

I’ve tried all kinds of things to beat the Summer Slump.

I’ve sent home reading logs, writing journals, and extra science projects.

Some have had more success than others.

This year, I’m trying something different.

I’ve put together a “Stay Sharp Summer Packet” for my kiddos.

It covers most of the things that we have learned in Grade Three, plus a few skills from previous grades that I don’t want them to lose.

I’m spiral-binding it into a booklet and sending it home right before the break.

Purposeful practice: Summer practice pages specifically designed to practice the most important skills.  (Try out a freebie - link below!) 

It is my hope (and prayer!) that they will do one page every 2nd day.  That should be about 15 minutes of work. Just enough to help to keep their minds sharp a little bit over the summer, and maybe, just maybe, prevent the summer slump from completely erasing their brain! ;)

I'd love for my blog readers to try this packet out!  The full version is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, but I've put together a sample (9 full pages!) for you to try out for free. The full version (90+ pages is available for 5$). 

(CLICK HERE for the freebie!)  

Let me know what you think about it in the comments below.  

How do you combat the Summer Slump in your classroom or in your school? I’d love to hear your tips!

- Rachel

Inquiry Based Science

Let it Grow!

I am a big fan of hands-on learning.  The less I can teach, and the more I can let students discover for themselves the better! When I was in university, I completed my education degree in the inquiry-based cohort, and it has absolutely impacted my teaching style.  There is just so much research suggesting that when students discover things for themselves in a classroom environment, rather than have all of the information ‘deposited’ lecture-style, they make genuine lifelong connections to the learning.

This spring, we are learning about plants through a guided-inquiry unit.  It is guided because I came up with the inquiry questions (true inquiry allows students to come up with their own questions). 

We began by learning some vocabulary and key plant terms.  Then, I posed the question: “How do plants grow and change?”  I put the question on a blank bulletin board, and left room for us to answer as we moved through the unit.

Guided inquiry cards  (Pictured above - included in the whole packet)

Instead of handing them a worksheet with the answers, we began to plant! We planted beans, lettuce, scallions, marigolds, and pansies. Each student cared for an individual bean plant, and tracked its growth, changes, and how they cared for it.  In groups, they took turns being ‘gardeners’ for our group outdoor garden. 

There were so many great AH-HA moments as we used our hands-on garden as the focal point for our learning, and I think we learned more from our mistakes than successes!  My students knew the concept of photosynthesis, but only truly understood the importance of green leaves when their plants were munched by local deer!

We finally figured out why plants need sunlight after our blinds were accidentally closed over the weekend and our plants sat in the dark for 72 hours. 

We tracked the changes on our plants, and marveled at how resilient our bean plants were! 

We could not believe at how our teeny-tiny seeds turned into edible pieces of lettuce!

I cannot tell you how many parents have sent me e-mails or stopped in to let me know that they now have small gardens in their houses/apartments that are being tended to by my third graders.  It makes me smile to think that what we are learning in the classroom is already turning into out-of-school continued education! 

I’ve gathered together my whole unit into a ready-to-go packet that you can pick up on Teachers Pay Teachers.   It has everything you need: vocabulary, life cycle worksheets, inquiry questions, student notebooks, and two experiments. 

Check it out here:  ALL ABOUT PLANTS, inquiry-based science

If you try it out, let me know what you think!  Have your kiddos discovered their “green thumb”? 

- Rachel

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